What Is Infertility?
According to Lisa Hasty, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at Piedmont Hospital, “Infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse, or six months if the woman is over age 35.” Infertility is also the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. It is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive system.
Both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), World Health Organization (WHO) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognize infertility as a disease.
Who It Affects:
The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth states that infertility affects 7.3 million people in the United States alone. This figure represents 12 percent of women of childbearing age, or one in eight couples. After a women reaches age forty, one in four couples experience infertility. “Fertility issues affect both women and men,” says Dr. Hasty. “Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners, or is unexplained.”
According to Dr. Hasty, age is the leading reason we see infertility on the rise. Many people are choosing to get married and have children later in life. Being overweight or underweight is another factor. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can improve chances of pregnancy.
While many people commonly associate infertility treatments with in vitro fertilization (IVF), approximately 85 to 90 percent of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures. “We can help the majority of patients with simple treatment, “ says Dr. Hasty. “Only about a third of our patients have to consider the higher-tech treatments.”
Infertility can be treated with medication if the issue is ovulation-related, while surgery can treat problems such as ovarian or uterine fibroids or polyps. If the issue is egg-related, using an egg donor is an option for many couples. For unexplained problems, recommended treatment can include taking break from trying to conceive, acupuncture and counseling.
There are many treatment options for infertility and reproductive specialists are truly there to help. If you think you are facing infertility, speak with your doctor, who can assist you in finding a specialist and/or treatment options that are right for you.